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Wireless communications networks are essential to the success of future applications in fields such as healthcare

damage, a major can rental agency is using a wireless system that allows damaged cars to be inspected and an appraisal prepared within two minutes. Te company estimates that it will save millions of pounds per year on unrecovered costs. Te system also ensures that crucial cus- tomer information and signatures are not lost.

Manufacturing Productivity improvements, inventory manage- ment, quality control: all are common chal- lenges found in virtually every manufacturing facility today. From automotive to warehouse environ-

ments, the need to attach essential devices such as PLCs, CNC/DNC equipment, process and quality control equipment, pump controllers, barcode operator displays, scales and weighing stations, printers and machine vision systems is common. Wireless networks offer the solution for all these challenges. For example, a major facility control centre

had problems operating process-control equip- ment on a legacy network that was independ- ent of the LAN. To network-enable all of the process control equipment at the support centre would have required more than 1500 feet of wiring and conduit spanning multiple buildings, a costly and time-intensive project. Instead, wireless device servers have been inte- grated to ethernet-enable all of the equipment in the support centre. Tis solution also delivers significant time-

savings, as over 500 PCs in the support centre have access to real-time information as it is gen-


erated by the process control equipment. Tis eliminates the need for a technician to patrol the floor and monitor each device individually, and speeds the response time when a failure occurs. Tese examples demonstrate that businesses

of all types are finding that wireless networks meet the high availability and capacity require- ments needed for their specific applications. Once a decision is made to deploy a wireless system, the overriding question then becomes one of standards.

Up to standard • Wi-Fi: In a mixed wireless network environ- ment, it is important to select standards- based wireless products that are able to exchange and use information. Wi-Fi is a generic term that re- fers to any type of 802.11 network, the term is promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Terefore, any products tested and approved as ‘Wi-Fi Certi- fied’ by the Wi-Fi Alliance are certified as inter- operable with each other, even if they are from different manufacturers. A user with a Wi-Fi Certified product can

also use any brand of access point with any other brand of client hardware that is also Wi-Fi certi- fied. Users benefit from this interoperability by not being locked into one vendor’s solution. •Bluetooth: named after the Viking king Harald Bluetooth, Bluetooth is a short-range (10 metre) frequency-hopping protocol that links devices. Designed to operate in noisy frequency environ- ments, Bluetooth uses a fast acknowledgement and frequency-hopping scheme to make a link robust. It avoids interference from other signals

by hopping to a new frequency after transmit- ting or receiving a packet. Compared with other systems in the same

frequency band, Bluetooth hops faster and uses shorter packets. As a short-range, low-cost, wire- less solution, Bluetooth requires less operating power than most other devices. However, be- cause it shares a specific radio spectrum, there is potential for interference with consumer appli- ances that operate in the same spectrum, such as cordless phones, microwaves and baby monitors.

Picking a partner Over the past decade, wireless local area net- works have played a key role in revolution- izing the use of technology in our society. In the office and at home, and now across most business infrastructures, wireless connectivity is permeating every aspect of our lives. But as has been demonstrated, there are an abundance of complexities associated with wireless con- nectivity. Te effort involved in understanding this technology and bringing it to embedded solutions can be daunting, time-consuming and expensive. It is therefore important for organizations to

seek out providers that can simplify the process. To capitalize on the growth in this space, they need a convenient, cost-effective, and easy-to- install solution for adding wireless connectivity to their embedded designs. Finding a provider that offers the flexibility to

suit specific wireless requirements, with the abil- ity to add connectivity modules to any product quickly and easily, is an important place to start.

LAND mobile November 2011

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